The Hazards of Overdoing It
Ordering a Venti coffee is taking the fast track to Gastric Reflux disease, a serious condition that affects young and old alike and could lead to cancer. Learn why, what the consequences are and what to do to avoid it.
Story: John Sotomayor
We are all guilty of doing it. We over caffeinate, and eat and drink things that are not good for us, merely out of convenience. The convenience comes with a hidden cost –Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. GERD occurs when the acids in the stomach can no longer be contained due to a damaged sphincter muscle. The sphincter muscles above and below the stomach are supposed to close, but are relaxed over time due to excessive ingestion of caffeine, alcohol and menthol. The patient with GERD, has weakened sphincter muscles. They may also have a hernia that causes GERD. As it progresses, it will cause ulcers, hernias between the stomach and chest wall and possibly cancer, from grade 1 to grade 4. At grade 4, the patient would have difficulty swallowing, cough up blood and suffer severe pain. These severe cases require surgery.
Gastric Reflux is very prevalent in the Ocala/Marion County community.
Some people who show signs of GERD can simply take steps to avoid aggravating the condition, while others need to be screened for cancer.
There are various things we ingest or activities we enact that cause or aggravate GERD.
Avoidance is Key
Symptoms you should look for and report to a doctor include:
• Sour taste of fluid in their mouth due to the stomach acid
• Lump in the throat
Initial steps to avoid meds are:
• Change diet
• Lose weight
• Avoid overeating. Practice portion control. Eat six smaller meals a day.
• Do not eat just before going to bed. In fact, avoid lying down for three hours after eating, including on the couch or recliner.
• Don’t exercise after eating or close to bedtime.
• Avoid pressure on the stomach, like raising the top of the bed.
• Don’t smoke.
• Avoid Aspirin and Ibuprofen products.
From a nutritional standpoint, there are several things the person showing symptoms of GERD should do to improve their health and thus eliminate or minimize the need for medications or surgery.
We try to eliminate food that would create symptoms or aggravate the condition. When people start showing symptoms, the following dietary changes need to be made:
• Eliminate caffeinated products like coffee, tea or soda
• Eliminate anything carbonated, even carbonated water
• Fried food
• Fatty food
• Spicy food
• Mints, like spearmint and peppermint
• Citrus drinks (orange, grapefruit, lemon, lime, tangerine)
• Tomato-based products
By the time they are having symptoms; gastric influx disease has already progressed significantly. If you are having any of these symptoms, it is worth checking out to see if you have acid reflux or not. The symptoms alone are not necessarily enough to show you have it. Also, What triggers in some people won’t necessarily trigger in others.
Coffee is one of the biggest culprits. Most of us are excessive coffee drinkers. Excessive coffee is more than two cups of coffee per day.
A cup of coffee is 6 oz. Most of us drink more than that in each serving. Most of us measure a cup of coffee from an 8 oz measure, more than the standard. Each time we order coffee, we are drinking more than two cups of coffee at a time.
Just take a look at one common vendor, for example. The size options at Starbucks are: Tall (12 ounces), Grande (16 ounces), Venti (24 ounces), and soon Trenta (31 ounces). That’s two to five cups of coffee consumed in one sitting. Ordering fatty foods at a fast food restaurant is just as bad.
For those under 40, if these simple steps do not produce desirable results, and the symptoms are not severe, you can take over-the-counter medications such as:
• Milk of Magnesia
The problem is most people under 40 have a high use of tobacco and alcohol, which aggravates the condition. It is best to cut out all the items listed above altogether.
Sources: Dr. Bheema Singu, gastroenterologist; Salvadore Ramos, DO, general surgeon and bariatric surgeon; and Jennifer Cangenelli, Coordinator for the Diabetes Education Program, a registered dietitian, all from Ocala Health Services.